University of New Hampshire

Case study
University of New Hampshire
Citrix Application Delivery
for Education
One important differentiator
of NetScaler was the easyto-use tool for creating
application delivery policies.
It helped make the rollout
incredibly smooth.
Eileen Cooley
Senior IT Manager,
University of New Hampshire
University of New Hampshire moves course management online with
Citrix NetScaler
The University of New Hampshire (UNH), in Durham, is a land-grant institution and part of the University
System of New Hampshire. The university has an enrollment of 14,000 graduate and undergraduate
students and about 1,200 faculty members.
The challenge: high availability of a web-based course
management solution
When UNH adopted the Blackboard Learning System, a family of Web-based applications for course
management and collaboration, faculty members were slow to use the tool at first because it was
a new approach. “Then the word got out and usage began to grow,” said Eileen Cooley, senior IT
manager. “Today, 80 percent of courses are managed in Blackboard.”
The Blackboard Learning System provides a wide range of teaching functionality, including creating,
building and managing courses and materials; delivering syllabi and grades; and administering exams.
In addition, the solution provides students with collaboration tools for group work, and allows them
to communicate electronically with faculty and other students, submit papers and take exams. The
Blackboard solution is delivered via UNH’s Web portal.
Key benefits
• Provides high availability of
the Blackboard solution for
students and faculty
• Scales to support increased
connections and applications
• Secures confidential application data over the Web
As the popularity of Blackboard grew, Cooley and her team recognized that they needed a loadbalancing solution to ensure high availability around the clock and support a growing user base.
“Students are sometimes working at 3 a.m. and instructors are preparing for classes early in the
morning, so consistent Web server availability is critical. Also, we wanted a solution that would provide
integrated SSL connectivity and scripting.”
UNH’s existing load balancer, part of its Linux-based portal platform, did not meet these requirements.
Therefore, Cooley conducted a side-by-side comparison of three products, including Citrix®
NetScaler®, Platinum Edition.
Implementing an Application Delivery Infrastructure solution
from Citrix
“We ran the three solutions through their paces,” Cooley recalled. “One of the products had drawbacks
in scalability, licensing and cost.” Another did not provide all the functionality that UNH needed.
Based on its superior capabilities, including high availability, session persistence and scripting, as
well as integrated SSL encryption, Citrix NetScaler came out on
top. Specifically, because UNH required much more intensive
test scripting capabilities than would normally be possible on a
proprietary appliance, NetScaler was selected for its ability to allow
external scripting on “helper” servers to access it via Secure Shell
(SSH) commands. Other manufacturers either had no external
command line access, or used unsecured and/or non-scriptable
methods of access such as Telnet or Remote Shell (RSH).
The university implemented a pair of NetScaler appliances.
“We felt NetScaler was the most robust solution and liked the
fact that Citrix is a well-established vendor and well known in
the marketplace.” She added, “One important differentiator
of NetScaler was the easy-to-use tool for creating application
delivery policies. It helped make the rollout incredibly smooth.”
The NetScaler appliances load-balance 20 Web servers running
Blackboard Learning System as well as other applications, such
as Internet Native Banner for Web delivery of forms and Kronos
for timekeeping.
Ensuring high availability in the face of
constant growth
Even with a steady increase of 15 to 20 percent in daily
connections to Blackboard and other applications each semester,
the Citrix NetScaler solution easily handles the load. “We maintain
high availability at any time of the day or night, even with the
large number of transactions on the Blackboard applications,”
Cooley said. “The fact that we can keep raising the number of
transactions and connections and our environment is still OK is
probably the most important NetScaler benefit for us. And even
when a server occasionally goes down, the NetScaler appliances
do their job in making sure nobody hits that failed piece of the
Citrix NetScaler also easily handles the addition of more
applications to the Blackboard solution, such as a parent portal.
Currently, UNH has a dozen Blackboard modules. “We are
confident that the scalability and power of the NetScaler hardware
will prevent overtaxing the environment, even with the addition of
many more applications,” Cooley stated.
Integrated SSL encryption simplifies security
With confidential information such as grades delivered via the
Blackboard Learning System, it is important for UNH to encrypt
user connections to the portal. “With SSL security as part of our
load-balancing solution, it was much easier for us to implement
than a separate solution,” said Cooley.
“NetScaler has delivered what it promised to deliver,” she
concluded. “The features worked the way they were described.
This is very important to me because we’ve had situations where
hardware did not perform as we expected. NetScaler provided
everything we looked for and in some cases, more.”
Future plans
UNH is planning to begin using other NetScaler functionality, such
as the integrated Application Firewall to protect against known
and unknown application-layer attacks. The university is also
considering using Layer 7 content switching capability for a new
content management application.
Networking environment
• Citrix® NetScaler®, Platinum Edition
• Multi/cross subnet connectivity within a secure network
Applications delivered
• Blackboard Learning System
• Kronos timekeeping application
• Internet Native Banner
• Self-service Banner
About the Citrix Solution
A member of the Citrix Delivery Center™ product family, Citrix® NetScaler® is a purpose-built Web application delivery solution that
accelerates application performance up to five times while improving security and reducing Web infrastructure costs. In addition to
delivering Web applications for thousands of corporate customers, NetScaler is the delivery infrastructure of choice for most of the
world’s largest consumer Web sites.
©2008 Citrix Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. Citrix®, NetScaler® and Citrix Delivery Center™ are trademarks or registered trademarks of Citrix Systems, Inc. and/or
one or more of its subsidiaries, and may be registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. All other trademarks and registered
trademarks are property of their respective owners.